By Alicia Constant
Pictures by Daniel Tate and Art Cox
Patrick Henry College
Student from iGovern East
“Senator!” “Senator!” A chorus of shouts erupts at the campaign press conference from a gaggle of reporters, armed with flashing cameras. The candidates stand under the floodlights, fielding questions on foreign policy, immigration, Fast and Furious, and a human colony on the moon. Instead of a press briefing room on Capitol Hill, these high school-aged candidates and reporters filled Patrick Henry College’s Town Hall, during Generation Joshua’s iGovern camp held on PHC’s campus last week.
Over 150 teens and counselors attended iGovern East, a whirlwind week of hands-on leadership training, political simulations, worship, and relationship-building fun. Campers wrestled with a number of complicated issues (this year’s theme was immigration), built a party platform, ran a mock Congress, interacted with lobbyists, held primaries, and then conducted a general election.
“The purpose of the camp is to train these kids to be good citizens and godly leaders,” said camp instructor and PHC alumnus Jeremiah Lorrig. “Kids learn responsibility by taking on responsibility. We allow them to do that in a safe environment where they can be mentored, but learn to make hard choices under pressure.”
Each morning, the counselor team released a mock newspaper, filled with unfolding world events and new crises that the parties and candidates would then have to address. Campers had to lobby others to give them fake money to fund their campaigns and causes, then file a simulated Federal Election Commission report detailing how much they had raised. To make promotional posters, campaigns then had to shell out the millions they had raised. The camp also included a day-long field trip into Washington, D.C., daily chapel services, and a number of team-building games.
“The camp is an opportunity to practice teamwork and leadership by learning to compromise with people you may not agree with,” said rising high school senior Adriana Arnold.
Arnold, 17, has attended both Generation Joshua’s iGovern camp and PHC’s Teen Camps, and says that her experiences made her want to attend PHC after graduation. She came to iGovern because of her interest in politics, but she was also excited by the spiritual growth that occurred during camp: “Chapel is amazing… Everyone here is dedicated to honoring Christ with their lives.”
Several campers rededicated their lives to Christ last week, and around 80 students received personal ministry and prayer from counselors both in and out of chapel.
Lorrig encourages campers to attend iGovern more than once, both because of friendships that are formed and because every year’s camp experience is unique: “Each year wrestles with different issues, and it’s an opportunity to discover the foundation of why you believe what you believe.”
A division of the Home School Legal Defense Association, Generation Joshua exists “to cultivate leaders and to equip them to use their beliefs to influence the political process.” In addition to iGovern, GenJ also allows high school students to get involved in real-life political campaigning through Student Action Teams (SATs).